We all know owning a pet lowers our stress and blood pressure, but now researchers have found that pets could also protect us from memory loss is later life.
According to a study, owning a pet either cat or a dog for five years or longer may link to slower cognitive decline in older adults. Cognitive decline is the experience of worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss.
Tiffany Braley, the study author said studies have shown that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like a decrease in blood pressure and stress. "Our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline," she said.
The study looked at the cognitive data of 1,369 older adults with an average age of 65 who had normal cognitive skills at the start of the study. They did several common tests of subtraction, numeric counting, and word recall and recorded their scores.
Researchers then used their scores and estimated the associations between years of pet ownership and cognitive function.
Six years later, the long-term pet owners saw less of a fall in their score and had the highest scores in comparison to those without pets. The cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners. Taking into account of other factors known to affect cognitive function, the study showed that long-term pet owners on average had a score higher after six years compared to non-pet owners.
As stress can negatively affect cognitive function, the potential stress-buffering effects of pet ownership could provide a plausible reason for our findings.
Those with dogs benefit from regular walks as exercise is connected to a healthier brain.
“A companion animal can also increase physical activity, which could benefit cognitive health. That said, more research is needed to confirm our results and identify underlying mechanisms for this association" says Tiffany.